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Judge dismisses Del. Impallaria’s defamation claim

Judge also questions legality of video recording used as evidence

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Del. Rick Impallaria (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

A defamation claim filed against four Republican Party officials by a Republican state delegate has been dismissed.

Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge Jan Alexander dismissed the case filed by Del. Richard “Rick” Impallaria after the delegate failed to appear in court. The judge issued a second order dismissing the case, saying Impallaria’s claim was legally insufficient and its key piece of evidence — a video recording of a meeting — was likely illegally made.

Alexander Bush, a Rockville attorney who represented the defendants and is also chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee, called the judge’s decision fair.

“The fact that he didn’t even show up to the hearing shows he only wanted to go up against and bully people who didn’t have an attorney,” Bush said. “He just wants to make people miserable, in my opinion.”

Impallaria, 56, a four-term delegate representing Baltimore and Harford Counties, filed the lawsuit alleging he was defamed when the four members of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee — Al Mendelsohn, Joshua Wolf, Bradley Lang and J. Michael Collins — discussed a possible reprimand based on Impallaria’s past legal problems and his campaign’s connection to an illegal robocall.

The discussion was based on an editorial and news reports previously published in The Baltimore Sun.

Impallaria was never charged in the robocall incident, but his top aide was, and later was given a $1,000 fine, three years unsupervised probation and community service.

Impallaria was representing himself in the lawsuit against the four other Republicans.

Alexander, in dismissing the case, barred Impallaria from refiling against the four defendants.

The judge, anticipating the possibility of the delegate refiling the case or appealing the ruling to dismiss with prejudice, added that he would also add a summary judgment against Impallaria. He said the delegate’s court filings were insufficient and that the chief piece of evidence, a video of the Republican Central Committee members’ discussion, likely violated the state’s wiretap laws.

“It’s unlikely it would be admitted as evidence,” Alexander said in open court.

The video was shot and posted online by Tyler Walch, an aide to Impallaria. Walch was charged in the robocall incident and sentenced to probation before judgment, fined $1,000 and given three years unsupervised probation.

This is the first of a number of defamation lawsuits filed by Impallaria to go before a judge. All of the lawsuits are against members of his own party during the last year.

In another case, Impallaria is suing Michael Geppi, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged him in the 2018 primary. Impallaria claims Geppi defamed him by publishing a campaign mailer highlighting his brushes with the legal system, including driving under the influence, dozens of motor vehicle violations and case in which he was charged with attempting to run over his mother, brother and two others. Impallaria eventually saw the latter charges reduced to battery and received three years probation in that incident.

In two separate cases, Impallaria is suing two Harford County Republicans for filing complaints with the Legislative Joint Ethics Committee. Impallaria does not specify the damages he suffered. The work of the committee is confidential by law. The complaints became public when Impallaria filed them as part of his case against each of the defendants.